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Spring 2014 - Goodbye Keywords, Hello Helpful Industry hashtags by Katherine Tattersfield

March 30, 2014


Editor’s note: Katherine Tattersfield recently celebrated her first anniversary with PrintFirm.com, an online printing company, graphic design firm, and direct mail marketing service in Canoga Park, CA. She may be a print newbie, but she’s a social media guru—and she demonstrates that even the smallest of companies can benefit from savvy marketing!

The Craigslist ad I responded to in 2013 seemed fairly typical. I could tell by the language in the job description that the ad came from a small business. Big companies usually search for candidates with specific skillsets, whereas small ones hope for a talented multitasker.

I briefly audited the website as I do for every prospective employer or client. I check basic SEO elements, such as metadata, PageRank, and social integration, to get a clearer picture of the business’ online presence. The PrintFirm site showed signs of prior optimization, which made me confident that I’d be able to deliver rapid results…but my initial assessment proved to be completely off base.


When I accepted the online marketing director job, I viewed it as just another e-commerce gig. My responsibilities included all things inbound marketing: link building, social media management, blogging, etc. PrintFirm does not have a sales team, so I needed to do two high-priority tasks very efficiently— increase website traffic and generate conversions (Internet sales). Before I joined the company, the PrintFirm blog sat stagnant, and there were no real social media communities to speak of. Basically, PrintFirm lacked any sense of brand identity or personality.


I hit the ground running with a content marketing strategy designed to appeal to creatives as well as small business owners. I updated the blog with fresh, targeted articles daily and got involved with customers and printing industry peers through our social channels. I suggested press releases as a way of amplifying our voice, and launched an NAPL award-winning campaign to educate clients about direct mail marketing best practices. We were making real progress within three months. We earned better traffic, higher sales and a growing social following.

Our outlook appeared rosy until May 17, 2013. Google introduced an algorithm update (Penguin 2.0) to penalize websites with poor-quality backlinks. I had never bothered to audit our complete link profile, which turned out to be a grave mistake. PrintFirm fell victim to SEO mistakes of the past, and I watched all of our hard work evaporate. I had no choice but to use the new disavow tool in Google Webmaster Tools to prevent those bad links from harming us. By the time I finished examining each link individually, our link profile had shrunk from thousands to only a few hundred. 


Discouraged but determined to bounce back, I shifted gears to focus less on keyword-driven content about our products and more on molding our brand into a resource for the industry. Surely we couldn't be alone in our unfortunate situation, and as I built deeper relationships with printing colleagues, I realized that most didn’t have a solid network of online supporters to help promote their content. However, I also recognized a strong bond among printers that simply doesn’t exist in digital marketing circles. Printers are united by the CMYK identity, which serves as an advantage on social media. I engaged with other social-savvy printers, and together we formed an alliance to our collective benefit. We use specific hashtags to communicate with each other on Twitter, Google Plus, etc. We have no formal agreement, but I know I can count on my cyber friends to share the #PrintLove.


Despite the obstacles, PrintFirm increased sales by 46% from 2012 to 2013. Let our story serve as proof that great content always wins in the end!

Katherine Tattersfield is a copywriter and social media manager at PrintFirm.com. When she’s not writing, Katherine enjoys photography, skateboarding, graphic design, and chasing her dog around with her husband.

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